Tag Archives: Wolfgang Iser

Reception theory

Wolfgang Iser is the main focus in this context, with discussions and comparisons with other essayists (contemporaries and second-generations), like Gabrielle Schwab and Hans Robert Jauss.

If we understand that books and the act of reading are based on a contemporary relationship between readers and the text, then we agree that they interact with each other in a reader-response way.  In the 1960s and 1970s, Wolfgang Iser developped the theory that the text does not simply exist in itself, but exists in a shifting relationship (see above).  There is no fixed interpretation but our own as readers, based on our education, experience and history (Jauss) – thus, the book and our personal interpretation participate in the construction of our selves.

Three groups of thinkers evolved from the reader-response theory:

  1. individualists
  2. experimenters (psychology) – Winicott, Bollas
  3. uniformists – Iser, Jauss, Gabrielle Schwab (2nd generation)

Iser‘s tools for modelling the relationship are:

  • the implied reader
  • the interpretation of blanks and vacancies
  • the affirmative negation (the ‘self’)

I found that Rob Pope’s book, ‘The English Studies Book’ has explained things very simply, in a way that makes it understandable.  The theory is further expanded in Iser‘s own book, ‘How To Do Theory’.

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